Justice will be served.
That’s one of the great lies we tell ourselves in this country. Someday, somehow, justice will have its way and the rule of law will be upheld. It’s a comforting idea, but try telling it to Cameron Todd Willingham who was murdered by the state of Texas in 2004 for a crime he likely did not commit. Was that justice or was it the desire for revenge at all costs?
The Roman Polanski case was of course different from that of Mr. Willingham. Whereas Willingham turned down plea deals and continued to insist upon his innocence up to the moment he was killed, Mr. Polanski plead guilty to his crime of having unlawful sex with a minor – a crime with much lower consequences than Willingham’s triple murder.
Two different men, two different situations and two different outcomes, but it illustrates the idea that the primacy of law is a total fantasy. Polanski had every reason to believe, as did Mr. Willingham, that justice would not be served in his case. He was being railroaded by an ego driven, headline grabbing judge who sought to make an example of a celebrity in a juicy, high profile case.
Instead of letting the law run its course, Polanski fled. He paid a price for his crime both before and after, but for 30 years justice has been blocked from having its final say. Now with Polanski’s surpirse arrest in Switzerland, it sounds like that all might change. The question is, why now? He owned a home in Switzerland and conceivably could’ve been apprehended at any time. Why is it more important to see justice done now than it was 10 or 20 years ago?
Newser’s Michael Wolff suggests the Los Angeles prosecutor’s office wants revenge for being made to look bad in last year’s documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. I don’t quite buy that argument since the villain of that piece was judge Laurence J. Rittenband, now deceased. I like Wolff’s second argument better: the desire for headlines by whoever is now calling the shots in Los Angeles is driving this thing. The documentary breathed new life into the case and the powers that be see it as an opportunity to milk it for a little press.
Those who are rightfully repulsed by Polanski’s crime are celebrating the fact that justice may finally be served, but they’re kidding themselves. It’s a quaint notion that may help us sleep at night, but it’s a lie. Thanks to Judge Rittenband, the possibility of genuine justice in this case was erased 30 years ago. No matter what you think about Polanski or his crime, you’re not going to get what you want here.
I tend to think that Polanski will return, receive time served (42 days) for his original crime and receive a slap on the wrist for fleeing the country, but who’s to say someone in the prosecutor’s office won’t see this as an opportunity for advancement now that the TV cameras are rolling? The system has failed once in this case already and it has failed others in the past with much higher consequences. Do we really trust it now?